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Gmail automations with filters

Set up labels & automations in Gmail with this practical step-by-step guide. Don't manually forward emails more than once.

In Gmail you can perform many actions automatically. Don't manually add emails to a label (folder) or forwarding invoices to a bookkeeping software. These repetitive tasks (and many more) can be automated inside Gmail. In this chapter, I'll explain how to build these automations.

Labels in Gmail

Labels are folders in Gmail, but you can use them for automations too. In this chapter, I'll show you how to use labels to structure your inbox.

The labels I use:

  1. Action -> processed emails that have task that takes more than 2 minutes
  2. FYI / Interesting -> reference folder of things that might be interesting later or are just a 'For Your Inforation'
  3. Waiting for -> emails that are awaiting a response or tasks that are requested from others.
  4. The other labels are not relevant for you.

Go into the settings in Gmail to create your own labels. You can create sublabels as well.

When processing an email, add a label quickly with these 3 steps:

  1. Press keyboard shortcut L or select the icon (under 1)
  2. Search for the label, e.g. type Action'
  3. Press enter and the email is in the right folder
  4. Press keyboard shortcut E to archive the email.
  5. With the setting 'auto-advance' you move to the next email.

Now you've set up labels, the next step is to add emails to these folders automatically. Keep reading and I'll show you how to set up automations (with and without labels).

What are Gmail Filters?

Automations in Gmail are called filters. When an email fits the criteria you've set up, you can decide what to do with the email. You can manage your incoming mail using Gmail’s filters to send email to a label, or archive, delete, star, or automatically forward your mail.

Gmail Filters Ideas

Here a list of example automations:

  • Filter email marketing newsletters, add to folder and skip the inbox
  • Skip social media notifications
  • Apply a label to email from a specific domain, e.g. * adds the label Tesla. Useful if you work for multiple companies.
  • Split email from colleagues (internal) from any other emails
  • Filter Calendar responses from Gmail, see Google support article as well.
  • If an email is sent to invoices email address and it contains an attachment, skip the inbox and forward to accounting system
  • If an email from person X comes in, give it a label
  • If an email from anyone at company Y comes in, give it the label CLIENTNAME
  • If it’s a Facebook Ad notification, archive and skip the inbox
  • If I CC myself, add the label ‘waiting for’ (so I know I’m reminding myself)
  • If I send an email to my ‘special’ email address (, add a task to my to-do system

How to create a Filter

This is an example from the Google Support article of how to set up a filter.

Source Google

Setting up a filter takes 2 steps:

  1. Set up a search filter
  2. Choose the action

Step 1: Set up a search filter

There are 2 ways to set up a filter.

Alternative 1: from inside an email

The first option is to go 'inside' and email you want to filter by selecting it from the inbox.

Alternative 2: Use the search bar

The alternative is to use a search functionality to set up a filter.

Beside the simple “From”, “To” and “Subject searches, you can do a lot more with search inside Gmail.

Search ideas to find emails

Play around with the different options. Use the search bar at the top of the inbox to search with these operators. It's possible to combine them.

  • Subject:training
  • from:amy OR from:david
  • CC:me -> emails that were sent to you as a CC recipient
  • in:anywhere In all folders -> helpful if you’ve set up filters. This searches everywhere, including spam and archive

Read all of them here:

From: Filter emails sent from a specific email address
To: Filter emails sent to a specific email address
Subject: Filter emails that use a specific subject line
Has the words: Filter emails that contain specified keywords
Doesn’t have: Filter emails that don’t contain specified keywords
Has attachment: Filter emails that include an attachment
Don’t include chats: Ignore Hangouts chats when applying filters
Size: Filter emails larger or smaller than a specific size

Keep reading to see the last step to get your filter live.

Ewoud Uphof

I hope you enjoy reading this free chapter.

Read the full guide by clicking here.

Step 2: Choose the action

  1. At the bottom of the search window, click Create Filter.
  2. Choose what you’d like the filter to do. These are the options to choose from.
Skip the inbox: Archive the email so it doesn’t appear in your inbox
Mark as read: Have the email appear in your inbox as an already-read item
Star it: Automatically star the email
Apply the label: Apply a specific label to the email
Forward it to: Automatically forward the email to a different email address
Delete it: Send the email to the trash
Never send it to Spam: Prevent Gmail from tagging the email as spam
Always mark it as important: Automatically tag filtered emails as important
Never mark as important: Tell Gmail not to tag filtered emails as important
Categorise as: Automatically categorise filtered emails

Do you want the automation to run from now to the future, or also for the historic emails?

Setting up the action is triggered from the moment you've turned on the filter. However, if you want to apply the action to emails from the past, select "Also apply filter to matching conversations". This option automatically applies the selected conditions to every email in your account (new, archived, and deleted) that match the selected filter criteria.

  1. Click Create filter.

Find the filters you've created in the settings under Filters and blocked addresses

Ewoud Uphof

I hope you enjoy reading this free chapter.

Read the full guide by clicking here.

Ready to automate your operations?

Our automation experts can probably find improvements in your current tool stack, automations or processes. Feel free to contact us for a free audit.

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